No. 1390 - Orford - St Michael and All Angels' Anglican Church

Orford is a small town at the mouth of the Prosser River, approximately 100 kilometres east of Hobart. It was established as a convict settlement in 1825 and later became the location of a garrison and a whalers station. The settlement is thought to have been named by a Mr Walpole, an early landholder in the area who was the descendant of the Earl of Orford.

This article concerns the history of Orford’s first and second Anglican church. The first church was established in the early 1880s and was used for a time as the Orford school. This building was replaced by a new church in 1929. The foundation stone of the present church was ceremonially laid on Saturday 27 July 1929. The Mercury’s report of the ceremony is reproduced as follows:

“As the culmination of many years of quiet effort in the Orford district, a ceremony was carried out in picturesque surroundings on Saturday afternoon by the acting Vicar-General, the Dean of Hobart (Very Rev. A. R. Rivers), to inaugurate a new period for the Orford Church of England, when the foundation stone of the new church of St. Michael and All Angels, which is replacing the tiny but historic building where services have been held for nearly 60 years, was laid, and consecrated”.

“In spite of the keen wintry air and the damp underfoot from recent rains, there was an enthusiastic and representative gathering from the district. The stone was laid by Mr. F. Mace, who has for very many years been a keen churchman of Orford, and was lay reader in the absence of a clergyman, the rector of Swansea (Rev. F. C. Best) assisting the dean and the Rev. A. S. Drewett in the service. The warden of Spring Bay (Mr. L. Bresnehan) also was present….”.

“The stone was set in place by Mr. Frederick Mace, who was presented with a silver trowel by Rev. Drewett as a memento of the occasion. Mr. Mace briefly referred to the fact that the stone had come from the local quarries. It was to be the only stone in the foundation, which was of concrete, and had been presented to the church by Mr. J. Griffiths…..It was fitting that Mr. Mace should have been asked to lay the stone, he having been for so long associated with the old church, and it was symbolic of the esteem and affection in which he was held".

Article goes on to describe the origins of the original church:

“The tiny wooden building which has served Orford as a church for so long has had many years of varied history. Long ago it was a timekeeper's office at the Okehampton quarries, Triabunna, at a time when those quarries were famous throughout Australia, and their stone was used so far abroad as Melbourne. The little building heard for many years the clank of cold chisel, the ring of metal, and the boom of powder in the rocks. Then well over 50 years ago—nobody seemed to know exactly how long ago it was—the little shed (for it is not much more) was carried intact to Crabtree's Quarries, which took the place of those at Okehampton, when the latter were closed. Its second site was some two miles south of Orford, and here it stood for several more years, again as a quarry building. In 1879 Crabtree’s Quarries, too, were closed down, and in 1883—46 years ago—the little weatherboard building was moved again to Orford itself, where it still stands back amongst the wattles, about 100 yards from the Orford bridge over Prosser River”.

“Some people of Orford still remember when it was first opened as a place of worship. Before removal from the quarries, services were held there, and the tiny place was packed with people when Rev. Clifford Power first preached. Only on rare occasions now, apparently, has it been so full. However, when it was moved to the wattle groves of Orford itself, where it stands on a rise just back from the road, Mr. Power called the church St. Michael's on the Mount, and such it has been for nearly 50 years, its little bell ringing to bid Orford to worship”.

“Outside in a gum tree hangs the bell. Once it could be heard for miles away, when ladies in long, flowing dresses, or hoop skirts, flapping draperies, used to hear it as they were driven to church on Sunday mornings. East Coast farmers, too, with bushy side whiskers, and beards, hymn book in hand, may have heard its cheery tinkle as they brought their families along in buggies and spring carts. But now the tinkle of the bell in the gum tree is not so musical as of old, for in the wild outburst of joy which the Armistice brought after the Great War, it was cracked, and now the Orford church people are looking about for a new bell to hang in the belfry of their new church”.

“St. Michael and All Angels' is the dedication chosen for the brand new church, whose framework rises above the neat foundation stone, carrying on the tradition of the Rev. Clifford Power and "St. Michael's on the Mount.” Amongst the wattle, which are among the glories of Orford, St. Michael and All Angels’ will stand with its white and orange rose window facing the sea beach and the eastern sun. Pleasingly designed, with nave, chancel, vestry and belfry spire, the weatherboard building will be ready for its dedication in a few more weeks, and Orford will have a church capable of seating a much larger congregation in comfort….”.

“The old building, which has served its purposes for so long, it was proposed to retain and turn into a hall or schoolroom, but it appears probable now that it will be dismantled by the contractor for the new building (Mr. Walters, of New Town), very shortly by the agreement of the parishioners, and the proceeds of its sale used in the purchase of special furniture for the church. This, however, is yet to be decided”.


St Michael’s was officially opened on Sunday 22 September 1929. Due to a decline numbers attending services the church closed and was sold in 2015. The building has been renovated and is used for tourist accomodation.

St Michael's Anglican Church - photo: realestate.com


St Michael's Anglican Church - photo: realestate.com



St Michael's Anglican Church - photo: realestate.com

St Michael's Anglican Church - photo: realestate.com

A photo from the Mercury taken at the foundation stone-laying ceremony. The original church can be seen behind the timber frame of the new church.


Sources:

Mercury, Monday 5 February 1883, page 3
Mercury, Monday 29 July 1929, page 3
Mercury, Tuesday 30 July 1929, page 10
Henslowe, Dorothea I and Hurburgh, Isa. Our heritage of Anglican churches in Tasmania / by Dorothea I. Henslowe ; sketches by Isa Hurburgh s.n. 1978

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